How Do F1 Teams Work?

When we see the end of a race, we praise the virtues of the winner, but we ignore that there is a whole team behind the driver who has been working hard and preparing for the Grand Prix for weeks. That makes us ask, how do F1 teams work?

F1 teams have two starting drivers and a couple of reserve drivers. Each team has complex structures with different departments, both in the factory and personnel who attend the races. The number of employees varies between 200 and 1,200 between large teams and smaller teams.

In today’s article, we will reveal the keys to how F1 teams work so that you can know everything about them.

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What Is The Structure Of An F1 Team?

F1 teams are not just what we see on television. Each team has a very complex structure with hundreds of employees divided between the factory staff, where all the components are developed, and those who go to the races.

Having a good structure and working method is the key, even better than having the best person in each position because everything must be coordinated.

The number of employees varies greatly from one team to another due to their budgets. Like Ferrari, a team that manufactures all its components is not the same as others that buy many of its parts from suppliers, like Haas, which uses a Ferrari engine.

In the following table, we have the structure of an F1 team with the number of people who work, approximately, in a large team and a small team.

 Large teamSmall team
Team Principal11
Managers2010
Assistants124
Race Engineers1210
R&D Engineers254
Designers12044
Aerodynamicists10520
Other Engineers6917
Race Mechanics2824
Production908
Others9228
TOTAL574170

Source: Antena3

Many of the staff in small teams are in charge of several tasks simultaneously, as they have fewer resources to do the tasks that other people in large teams do.


Roles In F1 Teams Explained

  • Team Principal: They are the director, the head of each team. The nature of the boss depends on the nature of the team. Some teams are owned by the car manufacturers, who put one of their top employees in charge, while others are privately owned.
  • Managers: They are in charge of different groups of people from different areas, supervising and guiding them. Large teams have more managers because their areas are subdivided into more areas.
  • Assistants: They are in charge of helping and organizing the calendar, events, and procedures. It is made up of receptionists, personal assistants, secretaries…
  • Race Engineers: They manage the races, and they communicate with the driver when they are on track. There are different types of engineers: track, data, systems, electronics, strategy, reliability … Their main role is to make sure that everything goes well before and during the race.
  • R&D Engineers: They are in charge of researching, planning, and developing possible improvements in car components.
  • Designers: They are responsible for both the general and specific design of the car and its components. As large teams have more designers than small ones, they evolve their cars more during the season.
  • Aerodynamicists: They are aeronautical engineers responsible for the car’s aerodynamics to be adequate and efficient. To do this, they use a wind tunnel if the team owns one.
  • Other Engineers: They perform more specific software, nondestructive testing, small testing, and other departments.
  • Race Mechanics: They are what we see in each Grand Prix. They are in charge of changing and repairing the car’s components during the weekend.
  • Production: They are responsible for producing and developing car parts. Small teams with fewer workers buy them from suppliers.

How Many Workers Of An F1 Team Travel To Each Grand Prix?

Most of the personnel who work in a Formula 1 team do not travel to races, as they stay at the factory—only necessary personnel travel. The people who go to the races are team principals, managers, some assistants (a larger number in bigger teams), some designers, and of course, race mechanics, race engineers, and drivers.

Although the difference in the number of workers from a large team to a small one is abysmal, this is not so noticeable in races, as more or less the same number of people usually go. In a large team, about 88 people travel while about 54 do so in small teams. The rest stay at home.


Budget, Income, And Employees Of F1 Teams

In 2018, Autosport magazine published the budgets, revenues, and the number of employees of each F1 team 2017. In the following table, they are ordered according to how they finished in the championship.

TeamBudgetIncomeNumber of employees
Mercedes325.997 million euros325.997 million euros860+450 (engine)
Ferrari393.426 million euros348.463 million euros960+440 (engine)
Red Bull241.681 million euros247.302 million euros740
Force India109.022 million euros109.022 million euros405
Williams134.873 million euros134.873 million euros575
Renault168.591 million euros168.591 million euros620+450 (engine)
Toro Rosso123.643 million euros123.643 million euros400
Haas112.403 million euros112.403 million euros225
McLaren196.705 million euros185.477 million euros690
Sauber118.031 million euros118.031 million euros360

Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault have more employees dedicated to engines because they are the engine suppliers to the rest of the teams (McLaren used Honda at the time, but the Japanese developed the engine and then worked together with the team).

From the table, we can conclude that the team that invests the most or has the most people ends up winning or vice versa.

Not necessarily the team that invests the most or has the most people ends up winning or vice versa. The cases of Force India, which finished very high on the table with its tight budget and staff, and McLaren, which finished very badly despite its larger budget and a considerable number of workers, are surprising.


How Do F1 Teams Transport Their Goods?

Formula 1 is one of the largest global sporting events. More than 1,000 tons of equipment, worth millions of dollars, is transported across the world to every race, including bodywork, technology, tools and machinery, as well as catering facilities, meeting spaces, and everything necessary for optimal work during the weekend, but how do they do it?

The truth is that it is a logistical nightmare. A combination of three modes of transport is used to transport equipment, infrastructures, and personnel: airways, roadways, and waterways.

As all teams are based in Europe, logistics across the continent are relatively easy and are carried out by the road. Each team uses dozens of trucks for cars and all the necessary. Because the cost of shipping by truck is so comparatively low to shipping by plane, teams bring whole buildings with them to the European races, the so-called motorhomes, where they have plenty of areas such as offices, bars, and restaurants.

In races outside of Europe, the tracks provide facilities such as the motorhome, so they are not as fancy as the teams’. In the following video, we have Valtteri Bottas taking a tour of the Mercedes motorhome:

Things get more difficult for international races, known as “flyaway” races, as they require more preparation. For these races, teams pack up five sets of shipping containers a few months before the start of the season, in January, destined to the first five flyways races (each one to one different destination).

They are sent by sea as it is massively less expensive than sending them by plane and it is more sustainable. They take a long time to arrive, that’s why they ship it months before. Shipping containers transport 200 tons of race equipment, classified as “non-critical”: jacks, trolleys, kitchen equipment, hospitality items, and fan-zone items.

When these races are over, each set is sent to another flyaway race. This is what destinations of each set were like before the covid-19 pandemic:

  • Set 1: From Melbourne to Singapore.
  • Set 2: From Sakhir to Sochi.
  • Set 3: From Shanghai to Suzuka.
  • Set 4: From Baku to Austin.
  • Set 5: From Montreal to Mexico City.

Equipment classified as “critical” travels with teams to each track. These are the race equipment: pit stop equipment, computer servers, secure data links, and car components. They are sent by cargo plane chartered by Formula One Management (FOM), in partnership with DHL.

Things get much more difficult and complex when there are back-to-back races, as there is less time for transportation, and also on city circuits like Monaco or Singapore, as open roads provide their logistical challenges.


What Do Teams Do On The Grid?

The moments before the start of a race are also very tense, and the teams have to coordinate very well.

About an hour before the race start, the mechanics use grid trolleys to get the garage to the grid. Drivers take an isolation lap to get a feeling of the car and brief the team if something needs to be changed. Then, around fifty minutes before the start, the mechanics go to the grid while engineers sit on the pit wall, bringing everything they need while the car takes another lap.

At approximately thirty-five minutes before the start, cars arrive at the back of the grid, so the mechanics eject them up and put them on carbon wheel boards to bring them to their correct position. Every mechanic has the same role as in the garage, and they are in charge of keeping the engine and brakes at the correct temperature using fans for the first two and blankets for the tires. An engineer goes through the steering wheel, collecting the switches and requirements for a start.

Around half an hour before the race, some engineers have a last-minute strategy check with the driver while the front wing flap adjustings are checked. With twenty-five minutes remaining, engineers ask for an engine cranking, that is, to move the water through the engine or fully start it to check its correct operation.

Fifteen minutes before the race start, the national anthem of the host country plays, and with twelve minutes remaining, the driver gets in the car. Then, the tires are adjusted well, and all the equipment begins to be collected. Thirty seconds before the race start, the tires are removed from the blanket, and the mechanics head to the garage during the formation lap.

Most of the guys in the grid formation are involved in the pit stops, so they need to be ready if there is an incident during the first laps.


Conclusion

As we have seen, the structure and operation of a Formula 1 team are very complex. For everything to go well, numerous areas and groups of people have to be coordinated, so it is admirable that every race weekend normally everything goes fine.

When you analyze how an F1 team works and its logistics, you realize how complex F1 is and that when we watch the races, we are not aware of all the work behind it, we only see a small part of what there is.


Sources